Monday, January 19, 2009

Day 57: Clementine


There was a teenage girl, named Clementine. There is no nickname for a name like that. No way to shorten it, strengthen it, or even make it your own. It is a name that wears the child.

Clementine's mother chose the name because she was born in December, and for the whole week before she was born, her mother had eaten nothing but clementines. Holding their perfect, orange weight in her hand, she would unwrap them with the peel almost intact. Separating the see-through crescents, she would line them up on her pregnant belly and and then savor slice after delicious slice. She was convinced that clementines were the most perfect, wonderful food on the planet. She could imagine nothing lovelier.

And so, she named her daughter Clementine--the squirming bundle in the pink blanket, in a plastic bassinet among a sea of Jennifers and Kimberlys. Maybe if Clementine had been a happy child, with neatly combed blonde hair and a ready smile, things would've been different. Maybe. But she had long, dark hair, and large, dark eyes. From her smallest days, her eyes followed everything, but she made very little noise. She was not bubbly and warm. She felt anything but lovely. So she wore her name like a coat that was the wrong size. Every time she introduced herself, she would watch for the tiny line in the person's forehead that showed their confusion. Most of them would ask her to say her name again, with a slight shake of the head.

In junior high, Clementine would practice her handwriting and fill whole sheets with the names she wished she had: Elizabeth, Kathryn, Caroline. Serious names. Names that fit. Names that everyone had heard, and no one asked twice about.

Practicing her handwriting was something she did a lot. Ever since second grade, when her teacher commented on how nice her penmanship was. Since then, she took a quiet pride in having the most beautiful, even handwriting in her class. Not that anyone but herself and her teachers ever saw it, but it was beautiful, just the same.

It was in the summer after ninth grade that they moved. She hadn't minded, since she felt that she was leaving very little behind. The only things she would miss was a pattern in the plaster on her bedroom ceiling that resembled a bench on a cliff overlooking the sea, and a certain cottonwood tree near the sidewalk on the way to the library. These two things, she could not take. But she left nothing else behind.

6 comments:

Erin said...

this story seems sad. maybe it is because i like the name clementine, but i want to the story to be longer, to see what happens with the little dark haired girl!

Becca said...

Erin...Yes. Agreed. But you should just hear all the adventures she had when she got when she was going!

Embers said...

I really like this one, I feel like I can relate to her :)

Denise said...

Sad, but good. So visual, things like "wearing her name like a coat that was too big for her...", and the see-through cresents lining up on mom's belly. perhaps this piece should be required reading before naming new babies! (you'd be famous) OR, to reduce the incidents of children being saddled with a name, there should be a cooling off period imposed- no names in permanent ink until mom has come off her pregnancy hormones. ha! I suppose we're all just doing our best- there should be a sequel though- blend it in with the bird of many colors- let Clementine find her wings and fly!

Christina said...

I like it in an "I want to know more!" way. Love the visuals writing...

Keep going! You could have something great here!

Adam S. said...

This is one of your best pieces yet, in my opinion. The writing flows, and the smell and texture of the orange get inside your head and stay there in the later paragraphs. Being a bad writer, I can't really express what I mean, but the first two paragraphs would be right at home in any modern "high literature" novel. The paragraphs about her writing her name seem a little out of place for me. Like others, I'd love to see this story developed.